Blind Zatoichi (Takeshi Kitano) makes his living by gambling and giving massages. Being blind, he can hear how the dice fall... But behind his humble façade, Zatoichi is a master swordsman, fast on the draw and deadly precise. When Zatoichi comes to a small town run by two rival gangs and a powerful samurai, he meets two young geishas intent on avenging their parents' murder a decade earlier. They suspect one of the gangs and their leader. Zatoichi quietly joins their team and is destined for violent showdowns.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Takeshi Kitano has invented a new genre with Zatoichi, the hamurai movie. This is where the acting is notably hammy, the sword action is not so much gory as glorified with pretty fountains of blood as victims are gashed open, and the whole thing is spiced up by musical interludes that would make fine video clips of agri-pop. Peasants whack the muddy fields with their tools in rhythmic syncopation, or carpenters build houses with a whack here and a whack there, everywhere a whack whack....
The finale brings everyone back on stage for an extended and colourful tap routine (the tap shows are Japanese sandals with wooden tap-tags attached). Clearly, nothing in this film is to be taken seriously, although it borrows from the classic samurai tradition. That's great, but at two hours there are many seriously tedious sequences, as well as several repetitious action scenes in which various factions slash and stab each other. We often don't quite know why or who they are. The slightness of the story is fattened up by inscrutable extensions (think hair extensions) that flash before our eyes.
I freely admit that I have not been seduced by Takeshi Kitano's films, no, not even Hana-Bi. Here he seems to take the piss out of everything and everyone including himself. He's a bleached blond with a Caesar cut, a blind sword master who gives one measly massage throughout the film; he eventually pretends to be sighted but then reveals that all the time he was performing miraculous battle scenes, slaying eight enemies at a time, totally blind.
He still has the same idiosyncratic facial ticks and mannerisms, the same old stupid adversaries and the same old deadpan style of killing.
I apologise if you feel I have spoilt some elements of the film, I couldn't help myself. I'm just a humble hack who wanders from keyboard to keyboard, writes without fingers, loves tap dancing and could use a massage.
Published March 3, 2005
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ZATOICHI: DVD (M)
CAST: Takeshi Kitano, Tadanobu Asano, Yui Natsukawa, Michiyo Ookusu, Yuuko Daike, Gadarukanaru Taka, Daigoro Tachibana, Ittoku Kishibe, Saburo Ishikuya, Akira Emoto
PRODUCER: Masayuko Mori
DIRECTOR: Takeshi Kitano
SCRIPT: Takeshi Kitano
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Katsui Yanagishima
EDITOR: Takeshi Kitano, Yoshhinoro Oota
MUSIC: Keiichi Suzuki
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Norihiro Isoda
RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: N/a
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE
DVD RELEASE: February 16, 2005